The 29th of April 1961 was the day for Pavarotti’s operatic début. It all happened at the Teatro Municipale di Reggio Emilia, the opera house in the Italian city of Reggio Emilia, a neighbour city of Pavarotti’s home city of Modena. This début was a result of Pavarotti winning the tenor division of the Reggio Emilia International Opera Competition. The opera was Puccini’s La Bohème and Pavarotti of course sang the role of Rodolfo, a role that turned out to be one of his signature roles. The personnel that special evening was as follows:
Conductor: Francesco Molinari-Pradelli
Orchestra and chorus: Coro e Orchestra del Teatro Municipale di Reggio Emilia
Rodolfo: Luciano Pavarotti
Schaunard: Walter de Ambrosis
Marcello: Vito Mattiola
Colline: Dmitri Nabokov
Mimi: Alberta Pellegrini
Musetta: Bianca Bellesia
Benoit: Guido Pasella
Alcindoro: Guido Pasella
The role of Colline was sung by the basso Dmitri Nabokov, the son of the famous Soviet Russian novelist and short story writer Vladimir Nabokov. This was also the operatic début of Dmitri Nabokov who had won the same singing competition as Pavarotti, but of course in the basso division. In fact, Nabokov was the hot name of that evening and his father Vladimir arranged for the performance to be taped. However, it turned out to be an even greater evening and launch of an operatic career for Pavarotti than for Nabokov. Nabokov’s career as an opera singer didn’t go that well and later he turned to other things.
Anyway, the recording of that evening still exists. It was issued on CD in Italy in the 1990’s on Claque GM 2001-2002 (2 CDs) and on Foyer 2-CF 2017 (2 CDs). Pirate recordings of this performance are easy obtainable today, and it’s worth having in one’s collection. Listen to some excerpts in the YouTube clips below and enjoy vintage Pavarotti from 50 years ago!